Here are the slides for my presentation. Thank you for all you people who waited until the last session and ignored a transit strike to come to my talk!
Category: Uncategorized (Page 4 of 13)
I’ve been thinking about a moment from 13 years ago while I was observing Kellie Huhn teach sophomores during my time MSU. 13 years have made the details of the lesson very fuzzy (F.O.I.L.? Standard Form? Quadratics?). What comes back to me was a quick explanation she made about the decision to go “off book” for a lesson. She could have said this: “These kids are getting a little antsy because we are going through all this content so I’m going to have to give them something in context.” It was clear that the class wasn’t behaving poorly, and were ‘doing the work’, but everything seemed deflated. Kellie picked up on this and was using her pedagogic license to direct the class through an activity that would recapture the kids minds. Again, I’m fuzzy on the details on what that actually was (Card sort? Skits? Rich problem set?), but the though still stays with me. As a teacher whose teaching was so non-traditional, I’m pretty sure that my 3 or 4 months of observations taught me that teaching doesn’t have to mean following the book, and challenged me to be inventive as I serve my future students.
So this long weekend I was thinkingabout adding energy to my current class when Kellie’s comment about content and context came to mind. Instructional routines and tasks can seem pretty dry for kids. Without balance it feels a lot more like mastering content than it does real-world context for students. While we spent the last week of class tying together the various representations of linear functions, we may have forgot why they make our lives easier. It seemed time to take Kellie’s words to heart. In thinking of that I decided to adjust the unit a little. I took a modeling activity from 2 weeks from now and decided to run a simpler version of it today.
The actual task that I got was from Dan Meyer’s blog which asked “How many
Styrofoam cups unifix cubes would you need to be as tall as your teacher?” Kids could work together and think through the problem, take measurements, and make a prediction. Since I have a crapload of unifix cubes, they could then actually physically put together the 103 (give or take) cubes to reach my height. In the end it ended up being less of a linear modelling activity and more of a estimation activity, but I think it was something that spoke to the point of precision, counting, answering genuine problems, teamwork, and what math class is all about.
(Side note: Before class started one girl who pulled me aside and asked if I thought she should transfer out of the class because it was too hard. At the end of this, her group ended up getting the closest estimate, and it was largely because of her!)
Unfortunately, this means that we aren’t where I wanted to be in the unit. The kids had a lot of fun and were able to apply a lot of the linear thinking that we have been doing to a real context. We’ll just have to derive the slope formula next class while we wrap up linear thinking with an end of the unit reflection.
Today is the first day of classes! …and of my school’s two day retreat on descriptive inquiry. This means I don’t get to see the result of my stressed, late night lesson planning. Luckily my kids were in very capable hands the other Trig teacher stepping up to take the coverage. Let’s take a step back and talk about what this cycle’s class is all about.
For a few weeks last June I was one of the lucky volunteers who were able to review proposals for San Antonio’s 2017 NCTM conference. It was a lot of reading and it is a great opportunity to hear what math educators from around the world think should be talked about at the conference. Reading the words from hundreds of speakers provided a glimpse of math education thinking from the minds of teachers and educators across countless numbers of different contexts. It was a rare kind of opportunity that was both a great honor and also genuinely fun.
The Access and Equity Question
After reading over two hundred proposals, I noticed that some of the prompts from the application were better addressed than others. Particularly, the responses to the Access and Equity question were at times brief, or sometimes didn’t seem to address the question that was being asked. This question is the last written section of the proposal application form and asks:
“How does your presentation align with NCTM’s dedication to equity and access?”
Last year was my first year in a new role and it was…something. I left for summer like a survivor of some mental and emotional ordeal. My family vacation was spent thinking about things that I didn’t do, or need to do. Relaxation never came on all my family travels as little flashbacks of this year’s events kept interrupting whatever was going on. Spending so much time thinking seems like a pre-burnout symptom, so there needs to be a change and what else can I change but myself.
So, how am I going to avoid ending the year feeling like a weathered and grizzled old man. Well, I want to have a plan, three plans actually: a plan for the upcoming year, and also a plan for how I will work and carryout that plan, and finally a plan for myself. Since today is the first day that I’m officially returning, why not start the year blogging!
My back-of-the-napkin plan for this year for teaching, administering, and leading.
My school gives teachers so much autonomy and such great possibilities, that teaching here is truly magical. But like we’ve learned from the Harry Potter series has taught us anything, magic can easily become a burden (I only watched the movies, is that a valid reference?). Figuring out what to teach, staying on top of my classes, and giving timely feedback to students became burdens very quickly when teaching was not my primary focus. I am going to teach 4 classes next year, 3 of them I have taught before, 1 of them is going to be brand new. Class 1 is the Quadratics/Linear, 2 will be a new Exponential/Linear class. This is part of my plan to teach linear and another function at the same time to promote connections. Class 3 will be Probability, and Class 4 will be Statistics. Both of these classes are repeats that I am excited to ratchet up the rigor on, and can build off of one another for students who repeat. Pedagogically speaking I want to turn my classes into a series of instructional routines. After #tmcnyc16 I am on board with the ideas of activities that can support students in connections and I really hope my department can get on board with this too. Making kids think about new things every day is hard at a school that has new students changing classes frequently. Reusing different modules that kids can get familiarize in my class, and maybe other classes, will help to have more consistency. Teaching will have to be covered more in another blog, time to get on to administrating.
Administrating last year was treading carefully around many little things that can bubble up into real emergencies if not dealt with well. Let’s call ‘administrating’ the and overseeing of tasks necessary for a school to function, in order to separate it from working with people and moving the school forward, which could be called ‘leadership.’ It wasn’t until halfway into the year that the full scope of administrative problems came into focus. This year I am starting to set up lots of small things successfully in order to make this year smoother. The student records are reorganized. The computer systems are upgraded. I took pictures of every classroom in the school so I can answer any furniture questions without having to run the stairs. Hopefully I can carry this proactiveness into the year. That will mean meeting early with the leadership team, the math team, and the support staff and make sure we all are completely clear about the direction we want this year to go, which also deals with leadership.
Leading, and how I am fulfilling my role as a leader, was only rarely thought about last year. I don’t really even know what to write here, that’s how little I thought of it. This year I plan to think about it more, and as I think about it, I’m going to blog about it. Let’s say twice a week for now, over on systemsforthecity.wordpress.com. I’ll meet more with other school leaders and try to pick up ideas, as well as reading some relevant books (or let’s be real, watching videos about them), and try to be open and honest about that journey.
So that is the back-of-the-napkin plan for the year. I’ll talk about how I am carrying out that plan and how I’ll try to plan for myself.